CEO 79-49 -- September 6, 1979
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
H.R.S. RETARDATION SOCIAL SERVICE WORKER LEASING RESIDENCE TO H.R.S. VENDOR
To: (Name withheld at the person's request.)
Prepared by: Phil Claypool
The Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees prohibits a public employee from having a contractual relationship with a business entity which is doing business with his public agency. Section 112.313(7)(a), F. S. A prohibited conflict of interest, therefore, would be created were an employee of the Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services, District V Retardation Services, to lease a house to an H.R.S. vendor for use as a retardation group home or in a retardation day care program inasmuch as the potential vendor would be doing business with the district by virtue of its receipt of funds from the district to administer the program. Such relationship with an H.R.S. vendor also would be in violation of the second clause of s. 112.313(7)(a), prohibiting private contractual relationships which create a recurring conflict between private interests and public duty or which impede the full and faithful discharge of public duty, based on the fact that a substantial part of the employee's public duties is the referral of clients to community agencies and resources, as well as the monitoring of clients' situations and of the quality of care provided clients at those facilities.
Would a prohibited conflict of interest be created were I, a retardation social service worker in H.R.S. District V, to lease a house to an H.R.S. vendor for use as a retardation group home or in a retardation day care program?
Your question is answered in the affirmative.
In your letter of inquiry you advise that you are employed as an H.R.S. social service worker in District V (Pinellas and Pasco Counties), Network II. You also advise that you own a home within Pinellas County, which is the geographic area encompassed by District V, Network I. You further advise that a potential H.R.S. vendor is interested in renting that property in order to develop a group home or day care center for retarded clients.
In addition, you advise that this potential vendor would be licensed by the District V Central Licensing staff if the facility were used as a group home; if a day care program were to be developed, the vendor would have to comply with standards prescribed by the State Retardation Program Office. You advise that you would not be involved in the management, licensing, or qualifying of the proposed facility. Network I social service staff would provide liaison casework services and would place clients into the proposed facility. Therefore, you state, your only involvement would be the receipt of rental money.
You question whether a conflict of interest would be created under this situation: the proposed facility would be receiving money from the state H.R.S. Program Office in District V, you are an employee of H.R.S. Retardation District V, and moneys received by the vendor would be applied to pay you rent on the property.
The Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees provides in relevant part:
CONFLICTING EMPLOYMENT OR CONTRACTUAL RELATIONSHIP. -- No public officer or employee of an agency shall have or hold any employment or contractual relationship with any business entity or any agency which is subject to the regulation of, or is doing business with, an agency of which he is an officer or employee . . . nor shall an officer or employee of an agency have or hold any employment or contractual relationship that will create a continuing or frequently recurring conflict between his private interests and the performance of his public duties or that would impede the full and faithful discharge of his public duties. [Section 112.313(7)(a), F. S.]
Your "agency," for purposes of the Code of Ethics, is District V Retardation Services, as you are employed by that program. See s. 112.312(2), F. S., defining the term "agency," and s. 20.19(4)(a), F. S., which establishes the service districts and subdistricts through which H.R.S. plans and administers its programs of health, social, and rehabilitative services. As the potential vendor would be doing business with your agency by virtue of its receipt of funds from the Retardation Program Office in District V, we find that you would have a contractual relationship with a business entity which would be doing business with your agency -- in violation of s. 112.313(7)(a) -- if you were to lease property to such a vendor.
In addition, we are of the opinion that such a relationship would violate the second clause of the above-quoted provision, which prohibits a public employee from having any contractual relationship that will create a continuing or frequently recurring conflict between his private interests and the performance of his public duties or that would impede the full and faithful discharge of his public duties. In this respect, we note that a substantial part of your duties, as outlined by your position description, consists of the referral of clients to community agencies and resources, as well as the monitoring of your clients' situations and of the quality of care given to your clients at those facilities. Legal counsel for District V has advised that she knows of no regulations that limit the use of a facility located in H.R.S. District V, Network I, to clients or workers who reside or work in the network. In addition, she advised that it is possible that a retardation social service worker responsible for placing clients in facilities could be tempted either to overutilize placements in other facilities in order to demonstrate the need for an additional retardation facility or to actively discourage the placement of clients in other facilities by finding fault with them. Based on these circumstances and potentialities, we are of the view that the proposed rental would constitute a continuing conflict of interest which could impede the discharge of your public duties.
Accordingly, we find that a prohibited conflict of interest would be created were you to lease a house to an H.R.S. vendor for use as a retardation group home or for use in a retardation day care program.